Med schools look to head off doctor shortage


Universities and hospitals across Michigan are working to head off an impending doctor shortage fueled by the nation’s aging baby boomer population.

The state’s first new medical school in four decades is set to open in 2010, and existing schools are expanding their campuses and admitting bigger classes.

Those training future physicians also hope that many of the new doctors will stay in Michigan when they’re done with school, helping to revive the state’s troubled economy while improving health care.

“People should not have to leave their community to get state-of-the-art medical care,” said Marsha Rappley, dean of Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. The medical school is expanding from East Lansing into Grand Rapids. An April 21 groundbreaking ceremony is planned for its new medical education building.

And on the other side of the state, Oakland University and Beaumont Hospitals are moving forward on plans for a new medical school that is expected to admit its first class in 2010.

“We want that knowledge to be used within our community to serve people better,” said Virinder K. Moudgil, vice president for academic affairs and provost at Oakland University in Auburn Hills.

Policy makers reined in the growth of medical programs after the mid-1970s, fearing an oversupply of physicians. But in the late 1990s, new data showed that more doctors would be needed to care for the aging baby boomer population.

The Association of American Medical Colleges has recommended a 30% increase in enrollment by 2015.

“People over 65 use twice as many physician services as those under 65,” said Edward Salsberg, director of the AAMC’s Center for Workforce Studies.

Oakland University and Beaumont Hospitals’ medical school will be privately funded and have a presence on both the school’s campus and at Beaumont facilities.

During the first two years, students would study at the university. For the final two years, they would be placed in clinical rotations at Beaumont’s hospitals in Royal Oak and Troy, and at other hospitals.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan State’s expansion also is privately funded. The $90-million project includes the Secchia Center, a seven-story medical education building located near a cluster of hospitals, research labs, educational facilities and medical specialty buildings that has been taking shape.

The school trains physicians at six community campuses, including East Lansing and Grand Rapids, and has 493 students. The Secchia Center is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2010. By 2013, the school is to train about 800 students a year, including 350 in Grand Rapids and 250 in East Lansing.

In Detroit, Wayne State University School of Medicine, the nation’s largest single-campus medical school, swelled its class size to 300 from about 270 two years ago in response to fears of a shortage.

And MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, which has already increased its entering class in East Lansing from 147 to 200, is expanding by adding 100 students, raising its class size to 300.

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